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The Kitchen Garden: Belinda Gray's guide to growing your own fruit and veg

PUBLISHED: 11:10 13 January 2015 | UPDATED: 11:10 13 January 2015

Belinda Gray in her walled garden.

Belinda Gray in her walled garden.

Archant

A kitchen garden can produce something for the table all year round. The secret is in the planning and maintenance of your plot, and it starts with choosing the site.

Belinda Gray in her walled garden.Belinda Gray in her walled garden.

Selecting the site for your kitchen garden is important. You might be restricted to a specific area, which is fine. Work with what you have, never dismissing the abundance of vegetables, fruit trees and herbs that can be successfully grown in pots, against walls and fences, and upwards on teepees.

A productive plot requires a minimum of five to six hours of sunlight each day to really thrive. There are plenty of crops, like spinach, chard, rhubarb and Jerusalem artichokes, that can take less and still do well, but getting out your compass and finding the south or west facing areas of your garden that receive most sun is an essential start.

Shade from tree canopies can be minimised by careful and regular pruning, but be aware of the significant amounts of moisture and nutrients that their roots draw. Reluctantly, I took a couple of aged fruit trees out of my plot in the early days, which opened up swathes of sun-drenched growing space.

Shelter is an important factor in an exposed garden, particularly for fruit growing.

You can help by installing

effective windbreaks, such as fencing or some form of hedging, although the barrier should be 50% open to channel wind through it.

If your garden is on a sloping site it might have frost pockets on lower ground. You can prevent this by building tiers of beds, levelling the slope, or creating a mid-level barrier with young trees or hedging to trap the cold air descending.

Proximity to your back door is worth mentioning. When you make that quick dash in the dark to pick something for lunch or dinner, make sure it isn’t a marathon or obstacle course. Regular management, keeping on top of the weeding and plentiful harvesting are readily achieved if your plot lies close to the house. You simply see it more and do more!

A path for a wheelbarrow requires a width of at least 60cm, an outside tap is extremely useful on hot summer evenings and a power supply worth considering if you plan to install a greenhouse or powered irrigation.

When planning growing beds, rows running north to south are best for maximum sun exposure, ideally with a width of 1.5m – there’s no restriction on length – so you can access crops easily from both sides without treading your precious topsoil.

NEXT MONTH: Soil and composting

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